CHARLOTTE -- A federal funding fight might reduce or eliminate a controversial program that identifies illegal immigrants called 287(g).
The Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office was first to sign on to the program in May, 2006. In that time, the program's helped to identify nearly 12,000 illegal immigrants who were later put in the deportation process.
President Barack Obama's proposed budget would eliminate $17 million from the 287(g) program. The Department of Homeland Security says that money would be shifted to Secure Communities, which uses fingerprints to help identify potential illegal immigrants.
"The biggest difference is Secure Communities will not detect anyone who hasn't had a previous encounter [with law enforcement]," said Mecklenburg County Sheriff Chipp Bailey.
Vincent Pickard with Immigration and Customs Enforcement wrote in a statement:
“In light of the nationwide activation of the Secure Communities program, the Budget reduces the 287(g) program by $17 million. The Secure Communities screening process is more consistent, efficient and cost effective in identifying and removing criminal and other priority aliens. To implement this reduction in 2013, ICE will begin by discontinuing the least productive 287(g) task force agreements in those jurisdictions where Secure Communities is already in place and will also suspend consideration of any requests for new 287(g) task forces.”
All 100 counties in North Carolina operate some sort of the Secure Communities program, but only a handful use 287(g).
"If they cut all of the funding out, which is the concern of all the sheriffs we're going to lose a valuable tool," said Sheriff Bailey.
At a news conference for Ninth Congressional District candidate Jim Pendergraph, a group of protestors sounded off against the Sheriffs and the 287(g) program.
"We're very happy they're trying to cut the program," said Hector Vaca, Charlotte Director for Action NC. "Because a lot of racial profiling does happen regardless of what the sheriff's our saying."
Homeland Security officials said they'll review all of the current agreements with law enforcement groups operating 287(g) when the contract expires in October.
Aliens processed for removal from the United States after identification by 287(g) designated officers in North Carolina (through 12/26/2011) Source: I.C.E.
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Alamance CSO 522 384 293 272 102
Cabarrus CSO 221 301 218 135 44
Cumberland CSO 27 104 6 0 0
Durham PD 33 27 44 28 2
Gaston CSO 403 353 325 247 85
Guilford CSO 0 0 8 1 0
Henderson CSO 104 557 247 167 40
Mecklenburg CSO 2,271 2,548 2,055 1,524 389
Wake CSO 855 2,337 1,770 1,233 418